Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ford City Folklore

Hanging Tree image from Vicious Venues

In Shott's cemetery once was a stone that read in part "Reuben, Son of Daniel and Mary A. Briney Died June 2, 1863, Aged 17.Y 17.D - As you are now so once was I, As I am now so you will be; Remember me as you pass by, Prepare to die and follow me."

Pretty spooky all by itself, hey? It gets weirder.

Reuben was a broken hearted teen, and in his pain caused by love gone bad, he rode to a tree near the cemetery on his white steed. He put a noose around his neck, tossed and looped the other end of the rope around a branch, and spurred his horse forward. (Some say he met his fate accidentally, but what kind of spook story would that make?) Goodbye, vale of tears, hello, light on the other side.

If it were only so easy. It's claimed that he can be seen to this day riding on the hillside at night atop his white stallion with flaming red eyes, still searching for his lost love. And woe to those that see him; they're said to be doomed to die a horrible death, just like Reuben's.

Good luck trying to find his tombstone; the memorial was toppled and broken 35 years ago, and eventually hauled away. All that's left now is an unmarked footer, alleged to be near the infamous hanging tree.

So how do we know what it said? Because a photo of the broken stone and its inscription was part of Ford City HS 1974 yearbook, no doubt a reminder of the impetuousness and passion of youth.

"As you are now so once was I..."

(H&H gives big props to LC, his Philly spook sister, who dug up most of the story and the location in ways only she knows.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beaver Creek's Ghost Town

Hambelton Mill image from Ohio Barns

Hey, if you're in Youngstown and head south to East Liverpool, you'll run into Beaver Creek State Park. And though it's a sweet piece of land, with the creek and trails and all the other good stuff, it's really known as spook central in southeastern Ohio, and especially the area around Spruceville.

Fittingly, Spruceville is a ghost town. It started out in 1837 as a canal town, built to serve the needs of the Beaver and Sandy Creek Canal. The canal opened in 1848, but wasn't the success it was planned to be. A dam burst, seriously damaging the canal, and the railroad took advantage to skim the business.

The canal never recovered, closing in 1852, and the hamlet soon followed. It was completely deserted by 1870. But some of its residents never moved on.

The most famous ghost tale is that of Esther Hale. She was engaged to be married to a soldier, and when the big day arrived, Esther put on a white gown and waited for her beau, who never showed. Some say the man died in action, while others claim he got cold feet.

Hale refused to give up hope. She sat in her house day after day, still wearing her gown and awaiting her fiance. She never changed a thing in her home, and eventually it got kinda messy inside, but she would chase away anyone that came over to help her clean up or get on with her life.

Hale also used to walk the town, a forlorn sight in her tattered gown, looking for her AWOL significant other.

The guy never did show, and she passed away from a broken heart. Legend claims that Hale reappears every year on August 12, the day of her planned wedding.

It's said that if she brushes your skin, you will die on the spot and her skeletal figure will rejuvenate. Others who claim to have seen the misty lady in a white dress say that she does nothing but sadly keep her eyes on the ground.

She's usually seen at Hambelton Mill, one of the two remaining structures from Sprucetown days, or its bridge. Locals claim to have seen her in the headlights of their car, and some say that their cars will sometimes stop running when they pass the old mill.

Gretchen's Lock is haunted by its namesake, Gretchen Gill. Hans (or Ed) Gill came to America from his native Holland (some say Ireland; at any rate, it was from across the pond). Gill was one of the engineers who helped design the locks used on the canals. He brought along his young daughter Gretchen, his wife being departed and buried in the old country.

Gretchen contracted malaria from the mosquitoes, which seem attracted to canal-building and its standing pools. She died, and her last words were "Bury me with my mother."

Her father temporarily buried her in one of the locks. When his job was done, he raised the casket and caught a ship home with his daughter's remains. But for poor Gill, if it weren't for bad luck, he'd have no luck at all. The ship sank during the voyage, and the bodies of he and Gretchen were never recovered.

Gretchen's luck wasn't much better. Not only did she not join her mom, but she's trapped in the lock that served as her resting place. Legend claims that a young woman in a long white dress walks along the canal, screaming at anyone who comes close. Others say she just sobs.

It's said that you can only see her on the anniversary of her death, August 12th. So hey, if you're looking for a two-for-one spook sighting... But there are others.

It's alleged that Esther Hale has to share Hambelton Mill every Christmas Eve with a lady Quaker preacher whose ghost appears then and writes the word "Come" on the stone walls.

Jake's Lock is spooked by Jake, who worked on the canals as a night watchman, making his rounds with a lantern. One dark and stormy night (sorry, I had to work that in) Jake died when he was struck by lightning while walking the canal.

Local lore claims that he still makes his nightly rounds, and you can see his lantern moving down the canal, and reflecting on the water. Jake's a little shy, though. It's been reported that whenever his presence is nearby, no camera will work.

The other remaining standing Sprucevale building is believed to be haunted by a young boy who hung himself from the rafters. The legend says the spirit doesn't like company. Some who have walked inside claim to have been chased off by his unseen presence. (Scratch the standing part; one of our readers wrote in and said that the building has been demolished. No word on whether the surly little specter is still around, although they did leave a historical plaque to mark the spot.)

Beaver Creek State Park is also home to a spook known simply as the Mushroom Lady. She fell in love with a guy that didn't love her. Ms. Mushroom lived in the woods and was familiar with all the local veggies and herbs.

One night, she ran across him and his flame. She took a pot of mushroom soup to his home, for him and his honey. Yah, you guessed it - it was made of poison mushrooms. If she couldn't have him, no one could. They died quickly, and she buried their bodies in her garden.

The Mushroom Lady is said to still roam the woods. Some claim to see a woman in black moving through the trees, and others have seen a shadowy female in photographs they took in the park.

And add a celebrity spook to the cast - Public Enemy #1, Pretty Boy Floyd. He often passed through East Liverpool and stayed at the Conkle Farm. The coppers found him there, and shot him down as he tried to escape through a farm field. His ghost has supposedly been seen around the area, and many people have captured his voice on EVP recordings.

So if you're ever in East Liverpool with nothin' to do...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Creepy Crum Cemetery

Image from Witch Hunter Robin

Hey, cemeteries are supposed to be spooky places. But Crum Cemetery, in Ogle Township by Windber, takes the spectral cake.

The most popular tale is that of witch Rebecca Crum. She and her family were thought to be local hexes, and she was dragged from her home by the locals and killed. She was buried outside the cemetery proper, and her village of Crum was burned to the ground by the mob. Now, only the remains of three homes from the once thriving lumber community are still there.

With a rude send-off like that, it's no wonder her spirit is restless. It's said that you can hear her wails from the nearby woods, and the spirit of a lady in white can be seen floating through the grounds, thought to be Rebecca.

The urban legend goes on to claim that if you turn your car off on the second bridge of the path that leads to the cemetery, you won't be able to start it again. (although a reader told us that "it's the two trees at the cemetery you don't want to park your car between...") There's also been reports of folk spotting a black carriage that rides through the grounds at midnight.

Other versions say that the phenomena are related to a plague that hit the village of Crum, claiming most of its inhabitants. Their remains were buried in the cemetery, and the local government had the village torched to keep the disease from spreading. (A reader wrote us and said "The town of Crum was abandoned when the lumber mill closed in the early 1900's." Guess it was an economic plague that wiped out the town, and there are still a few buildings left intact.)

And hey, we're not done with local lore quite yet. Nearby is a “dead zone”, an area rumored to be haunted by a man that hung himself after killing his wife and children. It's supposed to be about two miles away along a blocked off back road that leads to their long deserted shack.

A reader by the handle of Hazzyrap wrote in about that area and said "As for the Dead Zone, I got that story from my sister and brother. They used to hang out there all the time. She took me to where it supposedly was, and it had long since been bulldozed down to keep kids from getting hurt. Reports included strange, red-eyed creatures and flying objects." Another reader wrote and said the house still stands, not that we'd be particularly fired up to visit.

Witches, burned-down villages, carriages, the plague, a crazed killer - who needs reality TV when you've got Crum Cemetery? But before remember that first and foremost, the spot is a place of repose for those gone before us. Many locals have told us of the mess and plain disrespect shown by various visitors and party crews.

Here's a little message from owners, victimized and vandalized by graveyard party people acting the fool over the years:
"Crum Cemetery is a privately owned cemetery by my family and trespassing is not permitted. There is no record of a Rebecca Crum. Most of my family, (including) my great grandfather and my parents are buried there, so lets not visit there to get scared or have parties; it causes more work for my uncle and grandparents to clean up your garbage. Leave the dead at rest."
And we say amen to that.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mrs. Muller and Her Wooden Horse

Mullers Military Horse shot by Andrew 94 on Flickr

Muller’s Military Horse is a wooden merry-go-round unit that was carved in 1917 by Daniel C. Muller, and it circled the midwest, entertaining generations of riders. Its claim to fame? Hey, it's the only haunted carousel horse known to be in existence.

The carousel spent its first five decades making the rounds of county fairs, carnies, and small-town amusement parks, until it found a home at Cedar Point's Frontiertown in 1971.

The legend begins thus: Mrs. Muller fell in love with the horse that her hubby had carved. She loved that wooden horse so much that after she left this vale of tears, her spirit would return to Cedar Point to ride it.

In fact, her love was so strong that she wouldn't allow anyone to photograph the horse. Jealousy lives on, even in the afterlife...

Another bit of more grisly popular lore claims that Muller murdered his wife and stuffed her body into his creation.  (Kati wrote in and said "The Mullers were my great-grandparents. My great-grandmother certainly wasn't murdered by my great-grandfather and stuffed in the horse! But the urban legend is a fun one." When a story is too good to be true, it usually isn't.)

Either way, Mrs. Muller was connected to that horse. (One story claims that a woman on her honeymoon at Cedar Point had a jones for the horse and is the spook. We'll stick to Mrs. Muller; better drama.)

The tale continues that after midnight every evening, when the park was closed, the carousel would start up, lights, music, and the whole nine yards, while a ghostly apparition, assumed to be Mrs. Muller, could be seen riding the Military Horse.

But the amusement park biz being what it is, the entire Frontiertown carousel was sold and moved to Dorney Park in Allentown in 1995, with one notable exception: the Muller Military Horse. And here's where it gets confusing.

The original horse stayed put at Cedar Point. But a fiberglass replica of the famous steed was placed on display at the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky. And of course, the ride itself was at Dorney Park, known there as the Antique carousel.

The result is that spook stories began at all three sites.

The original Military Horse is now a part of Cedar Point's Frontiertown Museum, tucked away off the beaten path in the back of the park. And since it was so rudely yanked from the carousel it spent so many years being a part of, the sightings of Mrs. Muller have come to a screeching halt, too.

First, the no-photo lore can be debunked, since there are pictures of Muller's Horse, from all three locations. This tale is probably a recent add-on to the legend, started because, well, no one could find the original to snap after it was sold. The story has switched focus some, now claiming that if you take its picture, some misfortune will befall you.

As for Mrs. Muller's ghost? She's not been seen in the museum. Maybe the truth is that she wasn't such a fan of the horse; could be that she just liked merry-go-rounds.

But if you're ever roaming around Cedar Point's Frontierland and stop by the museum, don't be surprised if you see a white mist protectively surrounding the wooden horse it houses or if your Nikon acts up.

Just say "hi" to Mrs. Muller.